Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning
The next piece to designing an assessment plan is developing a process that will lead to a sound assessment. What are some guiding principles of assessment practice? What are the values and commitments that undergird assessment? In this section, we outline some broad and flexible guideposts for degree program assessment that center on learning outcomes and improve student experiences.
The AAHE 1992 Principles of Good Practice
Link to full list of principles.
In 1992, the American Association of Higher Education established the Nine Principles of Good Practice When Assessing Student Learning. These practices are firmly established and continue to inform assessment scholarship and practice. They are wide-ranging and adaptable for any program, and in many ways, offer a philosophy of assessment that nearly any degree program can adapt. The nine principles with some illuminating excerpts are below, and the link above offers more detail on each principle.
Further, degree program assessment should aim to include students in the learning process. Students should actively engage not just as participants, but as partners in improving student learning; this includes incorporating the characteristics of the partnerships among students and faculty. Students can become more involved as partners through a variety of different methods. However, faculty and departments need to keep issues of equity in mind when building degree program assessment plans.
A key consideration in all phases of assessment is equity. Assessment offers a unique opportunity to focus on equity in a way that is focused, systematic, and actionable. Questions driving assessment from departments can focus on aspects of equity and, even more, methods of assessment can and should thoughtfully consider diverse student identities.
The National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) has, over the past five years, researched and shared what it can look like to center equity in assessment processes. The following broad actions are highlighted in their work. Equity-minded assessment entails:
- Check biases and ask reflective questions throughout the assessment process to address assumptions and positions of privilege.
- Use multiple sources of evidence appropriate for the students being assessed and assessment effort.
- Include student perspectives and take action based on perspectives.
- Increase transparency in assessment results and actions taken.
- Ensure collected data can be meaningfully disaggregated and interrogated.
- Make evidence-based changes that address issues of equity that are context-specific.
Degree program assessment should incorporate meaningful practices that keep in mind both the needs and diverse experience of students. In this way, assessment can reflect the unique dynamics of UMSL students, while offering robust programs in every department. NILOA also offers more in-depth analysis on the process of student learning assessment and on building systems that incorporate developing degrees that lead to meaningful outcomes in other publications.
It is good practice in degree programs assessment to include not only students, but all faculty within a department. Faculty provide the expertise for robust courses and programs, and therefore are needed in every step of the planning process. This can be done in a variety of ways, with each department having its own, unique strategy. Below, we provide guidance on building an assessment plan team.